Monday, December 1, 2008

A Call to Eat

Concerned that Moslem restaurateurs would find themselves stigmatized and alienated, I organized, shortly after the World Trade Center bombings, a "Call to Eat", which encouraged food lovers to patronize Moslem restaurants.

Moslem restaurateurs in Mumbai could use the same right now. If you agree, please pass it on.


Anonymous said...

agreed .. and sending the message on

Sayan Ghosh said...

I don't quite understand why would Muslims of India needs to be alarmed or feel insecure! It was Pakistan based terrorists who carried on this ghastly event, and they targeted everybody regardless of their caste or creed.
Indian Muslims are more Indians than Muslims. I agree that we also have terrorists in our country, and they're giving Islam a very bad name.
The theory that guides them(the terrorists) is a squinted one, bolstered by megalomaniac clerics spewing invective verses. They have no dignity for other people.
This is a pertinent editorial by veteran journalist M.J Akbar in this regard.
Please do not tag the terrorists by their religion, because they have misunderstood the Quran, and are in favor of a totalitarian regime that cannot be allowed in today's world.

Jim Leff said...

I'm suggesting that this might be a good time for Indians of all stripes (and interested gringos like me) to be show extra support and solidarity for Indian Muslims. Obviously(?), I don't think they deserve the slightest blame for what happened in Mumbai. Nor did I think American Muslims, who were shamefully persecuted after 9/11, were in any way to blame for those attacks. But then again, I'm sane. And the theme of my writings this week is that the sane need to stick together at moments when the kooks try to provoke division and hatred.

Sayan Ghosh said...

Jim I know that I was a bit more verbose than I ought to be, but I guess at times like this, we shouldn't do anything that makes any segment feel they're being treated specially or in a separate way!
But yes, some people may find solace in this. Cheerio.

Jim Leff said...

Ah, thanks for posting, NOW I understand your point. Yes, it might be a bit creepy to find oneself comforted and staunchly supported re: persecution that has not yet taken place, and certainly should never take place.

But understand, I'm not talking about walking in with a set jaw, back-slapping the fry cook and urging him to "be strong". I'm just suggesting that those of us accustomed to eating across boundaries (i.e. the international brother/sisterhood of chowhounds) might want to show our faces at this juncture. Not for eerie condescension or teary solidarity, but just for the same jubilant papri chats and halim as ever.

After 9/11, my favorite Egyptian restaurant was deserted. And the owner was scared (the usual idiots were spreading the usual xenophobic hatred). I went every day, and we both complained to each other about the asshole terrorists. I didn't have to tell him why I was there. I just ate and ate and ate. When people looked in his window, they saw not an empty room, but at least one or two people having the meals of their lives. Both Moslems and gringos passing by saw the old pre-9/11 cultural mixing just as always. It was like re-priming a pump.

If the Muslim restaurants in Mumbai are still filled (with a mix of people, not just Moslems), then great, skip it (and congrats to them for having a society infinitely more tolerant than mine). But I doubt it. I've found that even the most ardent culture surfers can shut down when a spike is driven. That, in fact, is one of the main goals of the spike drivers. So I try to "be the change" I want to see.

Anonymous said...

Sayan, as you are well aware, the phrase 'Indian Muslims' is highly misleading. Do we mean an aristocrat like the Nawab of Pataudi or do we mean a recent convert escaping the caste system?

Of course there are Muslims who are Indians first and Muslims second. But there are also Muslims who are Muslims first and Indians second. After all, the concept of 'India' has been handed down to us from the British, much as the concept of Hindu.

We regard Mumbai as cosmopolitan because thats where Gujarathis, Marwadis, Sindhis, Punjabis, Biharis, Bengalis, UP'ites, Udipis, Keralites, Tamils, Maharashtrians etc come together - and in doing so make something larger than their sum. An assault on Mumbai is like a strike on the whole country simultaneously and it can't but help evoke memories of the partition.

So yes, Muslims in Mumbai are alarmed - will they be held responsible for a horror they have exactly nothing to do with? Small gestures work wonderfully in these times - so go to Muhammad Ali road and grab a bite at your favourite restaurant. It's on me for you putting up with this post.

Sayan Ghosh said...

Hey Joshi and Jim,

I don't have first hand experience of a disaster scenario where lives are lost; and hence have a feeble sense of what's practical in such a situation.
The opening of Cafe Leopold almost a day after the Taj siege was over, was really symbolic to people's resilience.
Yes Jim, such measures may enable people not to convolute their thoughts with hidden fears.
You guys are right, that people misjudge when they are hurt and a flurry of negative emotions may worsen the condition.
Thanks Joshi for making me aware that our very existence as a single country caused much rumpus back at those times; so it is only practical to expect that we'll be figting and cussing each other time and again if some sane elements do not hold the balance.
And I have never been to Mumbai...but I would quote your name for getting a free one !!! And thanks for putting up with me :)

Jim Leff said...

"it is only practical to expect that we'll be fighting and cussing each other time and again..."

In India and everywhere else, alas

"...if some sane elements do not hold the balance"

BINGO! The sane oughtn't match the militancy or shamelessness of the kooks, but we damned well need to at least motivate ourselves!

Blog Archive